"The jive thing called Pentecost" & "The stoolie in Jesus' gang": The bible rewritten for 60s street gangs
God is for Real, Man
Author:Carl F. Burke
Publisher: Association Press, New York
Discovered at: St. Vincent's Thrift, Long Beach
The Cover Promises: The tales of the bible retold for "some of God's bad-tempered angels with busted halos"
"There was a gang called Philistines who were planning a rumble with a gang called Israelites." (page 29)
"Jesus didn't tell them how stupid they wereEveryone knows that the best way to share God's unchanging, infallible word is to completely rewrite that word every chance you get. Evangelist Carl F. Burke figured this out in the 1960s, when he gathered "angels with busted halos" - that is, inner city kids -- and gave them the Good News in the language they would understand: that of West Side Story.
Or call them retards -
He talked to them like they were real important-like." (page 86)
In God is for Real, Man, Goliath wields a switchblade and zipgun, just like the Jets and Sharks. The parable of the lost sheep becomes "The One Used Car That Was Snitched" and the great flood chapter is titled "The Story of the Cool Cat Called Noah." In "How Come You So Strong, Samson?" the Old Testament's strongest hero is steeped in 60s pop. He tells Delilah, "If you braid my Beatle hair, I'll lose all my strength."
Elsewhere, he gives us:
|While nowhere near as grand as the famous St. Vincet de Paul on N. Ave 21, the Long Beach branch does boast some estimable craziness.|
"The Jews were getting ready to have a real big jive thing they have called Pentecost."Burke's great insight is that communicating with the youth of America's cities is exactly the same as communicating with any of the far-flung indigenous peoples favored by missionaries.
To ensure comprehension, he offers contemporary titles:
- "The Betrayal of Judas" becomes "A Stoolie in Jesus' Gang"
- "The Good Samaritan" (Luke 10: 25-37) becomes "A Cool Square Comes to the Rescue"
- "The Story of the Rich Young Man" (Matthew 19: 16-22) becomes "The Rich Creep Has it Hard"
"One day Peter, who was one of Jesus' right-hand men, came up to ask a very important question. Maybe somebody had done him some real dirt and got him teed off, 'cause he was mad.This sounds like a white youth pastor's go at a Lou Rawls monologue.
He says to Jesus, 'How many times do I have to forgive people when they are always buggin' me? I already did it seven times. Is it OK to take a punch at them now?"
(The actual question, from Matthew 18: "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?'")
As he explains, Burke shared bible stories with them, and then asked the kids to retell them. Burke took down their words from memory, well after the telling, which means that God is For Real, Man is mostly Burke's guess at kids' paraphrases of stories Burke himself had paraphrased.
|Also at St. Vincent's: hot, corpse-ass action!|
But I have a hard time imagining the kids of '66 dropping a "Bingo!" into the story of Doubting Thomas (or "Touchin' is Believin'"):
"After Jesus boasted outa the graveSome are more kid-like, such as this, from the chapter titled "Some Lunch, Huh?"
He met two of his gang on a road.
Man! Were they ever spooked and surprised. . . .
Before they could even say much, bingo!
Jesus was there"
"One day Jesus saw a big gang of people, so he said to Philip, 'Oh boy! How we gonna feed them all?'"Weirdly, this retelling of the old loves-and-fishes story leaves the wine out entirely.
Occasionally, Burke or the kids or whoever get downright nihilistic:
"This is more than feeling sorry for himself -Yeah, Krup you, headshrinkers! Really, though, when a preacher like Burke learns that kids don't know what guilt is, doesn't he have a responsibility to explain?
It's what the head shirkers call guilt, whatever that is."
But that's the way of simplified bible verses. Like Disney with fairy tales or Tea Partiers with the constitution, Burke strips all nuance and complexity from the original. Here, he tries applying the Proverbs to street life:
"He told them he wanted
Them to tell all the cats in the world
He wanted the squares and hoods,
The rocks and the squeaks and collegiate to know about that, too."
|And animal must-haves!|
I especially enjoyed a proverb-inspired chapter titled "Listen to the Teach," which I think is also the name of a Dangerous Minds reboot on the CW.
Here, Burke pairs up an italicized admonition with a busted-halo paraphrase:
If your enemy is hungry, give him some bread to eat
If one of the Black Hawks is hungry
Give him a hot dog"
Nailed to the cross, Jesus demonstrates the grace to forgive those who not what they do. He says,
"Don't be too hard on them, Father, they been led on by the crowd. They don't know what the scene is."You could do worse than following @studiesincrap on Twitter!